Sat, Mar 25, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Nuclear reactor ordered shut by Japanese court


A district court yesterday ordered the first shutdown of a nuclear reactor in Japan, saying the country's second-largest reactor has a high risk of causing accidents and leaking radiation if an earthquake strikes, media reports said.

The court in Kanazawa said the Hokuriku Electric Power Co, the operator of the Shika nuclear power plant north of Tokyo, had followed 20-year-old building guidelines for earthquake resistance for its number 2 reactor at the site, which began operations in May.

Hokuriku said it would appeal the decision and will continue running the 1,358-megawatt reactor in Ishikawa prefecture.

A group of 135 citizens demanded the shutdown in a lawsuit filed in May, citing safety concerns because the reactor sits in an earthquake-prone region near the Ochigata fault in one of the world's most quake-prone countries.

Hokuriku said Japan's 55th nuclear reactor, construction on which began in 1999, was safe and was essential to secure a stable supply of electricity for Japan.

The court ruling came amid rising concerns about nuclear safety in Japan. The latest incident came on Wednesday when a fire broke out at a waste-disposal facility at the Oi plant in western Fukui Prefecture.

Two workers were hospitalized from inhaling smoke, but authorities said no radioactive material leaked.

In 2004, a steam leak at another Fukui nuclear power plant killed four workers. In 1999, two employees were killed by a radiation leak at a uranium facility northeast of Tokyo.

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